Bismuth is a white, crystalline, brittle metal with a pink tint. Bismuth is the most diamagnetic of all metals and its thermal conductivity is the lowest of any metal except mercury. Bismuth is stable in oxygen and water. All Bismuth salts form insoluble compounds when found in water.
Bismuth is used in the manufacture of low melting fusible alloys as well as low toxicity shotgun bullets and fishing hooks. Some bismuth compounds are used as medications. The industry uses bismuth compounds as catalysts in the manufacture of acrylonitrile, the basic starting material for synthetic fibers and tires.
Bismuth in the environment
Bismuth is naturally found in the environment as solid metal and even in the form of crystals in nickel, cobalt, silver, and tin ores. Bismuth is still produced as a by-product when melting lead and copper.
How can Bismuth affect health?
Bismuth salts are used as medications in the treatment and prevention of traveler's diarrhea, in the relief of indigestion, and in the eradication of Helicobacter pylori (as part of a therapeutic regimen).
Its biological half-life is 5 days, but it can remain in the kidneys for years in patients treated with Bismuth salts. Bismuth and its salts can cause kidney damage, although the extent of these lesions is usually small. It is considered the least toxic heavy metal (in relation to eg, Lead or Antimony) and does not accumulate. Severe and sometimes deadly poisoning can result from the injection of large doses into closed cavities and from extensive application to burns (in the form of soluble Bismuth compounds). It is reported that Bismuth should be discontinued when gingivitis occurs, as it may otherwise lead to severe ulcerative stomatitis. Other toxic effects that may occur are vague feelings of physical discomfort, presence of albumin or other urine proteins, diarrhea, skin reactions, and sometimes severe dermatitis.
Bismuth entry routes to the body: Inhalation, skin contact, and consumption.
Bismuth acute effects
Inhalation: May cause respiratory irritation, respiratory disorders, metallic taste, and gingivitis. Ingestion: May cause nausea, loss of appetite and weight loss, malaise, albuminuria, diarrhea, skin reactions, stomatitis, headache, fever, insomnia, depression, rheumatoid arthritis, and a black line may form on the gums due to the deposition of Bismuth sulfide. Skin: May cause irritation. Eyes: May cause irritation.
Chronic Impacts of Bismuth
Inhalation: May affect liver and kidney function. Ingestion: May affect liver and kidney function. It can cause anemia, the formation of a black gum line (Bismuth line), and also cause ulcerative stomatitis. Skin: May cause dermatitis. Eyes: No chronic effects.
Pre-existing skin and respiratory disorders are exacerbated by exposure to Bismuth. Bismuth is not considered a carcinogen.
In clinical practice, the use of DMPS is effective in mobilizing and excreting bismuth, mercury (organic and inorganic), copper, lead, arsenic, antimony, nickel, tin, tungsten, and gold, but does not affect aluminum or uranium excretion. In the majority of adult patients, mercury is the predominant metal eliminated after using DMPS. DMPS-stimulated metals are mainly excreted by the kidneys and to a much lesser extent by the liver (bile/stool). Another chelating agent for the mobilization of metals by the body, DMSA, is used in challenge tests, as well as for detoxification from lead, mercury, and other sulfhydryl reactive metals (e.g., arsenic, antimony). Several studies have shown the efficacy of DMSA in increasing renal excretion of lead and mercury and in lowering the blood levels of these metals.
How can one determine if one has been exposed to Bismuth?
We can measure bismuth levels in the blood and most biological materials.
Determination of metals is done by ICP-MS (Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry, Inductively Coupled Argon Plasma Mass Spectrometry), a method that enables the simultaneous detection of many metals. Its sensitivity and accuracy are significantly better than conventional atomic absorption, with the ability to measure metals at concentrations up to 1 in 1015 (1 in 1 quadrillion, ppq)!
Laboratory test results are the most important parameter for the diagnosis and monitoring of all pathological conditions. 70%-80% of diagnostic decisions are based on laboratory tests. The correct interpretation of laboratory results allows a doctor to distinguish "healthy" from "diseased".
Laboratory test results should not be interpreted from the numerical result of a single analysis. Test results should be interpreted in relation to each individual case and family history, clinical findings, and the results of other laboratory tests and information. Your personal physician should explain the importance of your test results.
At Diagnostiki Athinon we answer any questions you may have about the test you perform in our laboratory and we contact your doctor to get the best possible medical care.